Private James Clarke

KoyliPrivate James Clarke

40061, 3rd Bn., King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who died on 11 December 1919, age 47

Remembered with Honour
Staveley Cemetery N.N. 36. (C.)
Staveley Memorial (Plinth)


James Clarke Senior and Mary Marriott had married on 11th December 1854 and made their home at Codnor, near Derby. In 1861, they were living at Needham Street in Codnor with their three young children Mary, Henry and Thomas.

The family had moved to Barrow Hill by the time that Hannah was born in 1863 and increased with the births of Joseph, Charlotte, Sarah and Louisa. Their home at 110, Barrow Hill was a middle “Block” cottage belonging to the Staveley Coal and Iron Company. James worked for the company as a collier, as did Mary’s two brothers who were living with the couple and their 7 children in 1871 in the small cottage.

JAMES CLARKE was born at Barrow Hill in the summer of 1872, the ninth of the couple’s ten children, and older brother of Benjamin who was born in 1874. James Snr was still employed as a coalminer in 1881 and 14 year old Joseph was helping to supplement the family income by working as a pony driver at a local pit.

The family had moved to the top row of “Blocks” by 1891 and were living at number 24. Both Joseph and Benjamin had, by this time, become coalminers like their father whilst 18 year old James was working as a yard labourer. Also staying with the family during the census period were Charlotte, her husband George Marples and their two sons.

Alice Ada Jackson was living at the Lees Buildings on Hollingwood Common when she met and married 22 year old James in the summer of 1894. Their first child Ernest was born later that year and the couple made their home at 13, Furnace Hill; two up two down cottages in a small terrace adjacent to the Wesleyan Chapel, belonging to the Staveley Company by whom James was employed as a bricklayer. The 1901 Census records that the couple then had four children; in addition to son Ernest, daughter Hannah Mary was born in 1896, son Luther in 1898 and baby Harriet Ada who was born in 1900 but sadly died aged 2.

Four more children were born to the couple at the beginning of the 20th Century; Alice Eva in 1902, James in 1904, Enoch in 1907 and William Maurice in 1909. Both 38 year old James and his 16 year old son, Luther, were working as labourers at the nearby Iron Foundry in 1911 but with 6 young children at home, life would have been a struggle for the family; even more so when Arthur was born in 1911 and Ethel in 1914.

James was over 40 years of age and married with a large family to support when war was declared in 1914. On 13th May 1915, aged 43, he enlisted at Staveley and was posted as a Private to the 16th (Service) Battalion (Chatsworth Rifles), Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derbys) Regiment on 27th May.

The Battalion had been formed at Derby on 16 April 1915, by the Duke of Devonshire and the Derbyshire TF Association. It moved to Buxton, then on to Redmires near Sheffield and then to Hursley near Winchester. At the end of September 1915, they moved to Aldershot and then to Witley. It was around this time that tragedy again struck the Clarke family when a second daughter, 13 year old Alice Eva, died.

Soon afterwards, on 16th December 1915, James was posted to the 19th (Reserve) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters at Ripon before moving on to Harrogate and then to Durham in July 1916.

A considerable re-organisation of the regimental reserve infantry battalions took place on 1st September 1916 and the 19th Sherwood Foresters were absorbed into the Training Reserve Battalions.  James was transferred to the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on 1st September and posted to the 81st Training Reserve Battalion on 14th September 1916 at Newcastle.

1917 was a very difficult time for the Clarke family; they suffered yet another bereavement with the death of 2 year old Ethel and James himself was hospitalised at Ripon with bronchitis. In addition, James eldest son, Luther Clarke, was conscripted and posted to the 2nd Home Service Garrison Bn., Nth Staffs Regt (1868) in February aged 18 ½ .

According to his medical records, the bronchitis which James suffered from was aggravated by exposure during his service and he was discharged from 360 Labour Company as no longer physically fit on 5th December 1917. His medical forms describe him as then 45 years old, 5’9” tall with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. He had served for 2 years and 193 days and his conduct had been “very good.”

Later that month, his son Luther, now aged 19, was posted to the 1st Bn., Royal Guernsey Light Infantry with which he embarked for France on 14th December. He was not discharged until November 1919 having been in action in the front line at Poelcappelle, Passchendaele and Lys.

Digital Camera

James Clarke died on 11th December 1919, two years after his discharge.  He is buried with a King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry headstone at Staveley Cemetery, but along with many others, who were transferred to a labour company, was excluded from the Yorkshire Regiment’s roll of honour, kept in Richmond Parish Church.

Clarke plinthHis name is not listed on the memorial plaque at Barrow Hill nor was it originally included on the Staveley Parish Memorial. His name has since been added to the Staveley plinth.

© Ann Lucas